Monthly Archives: December 2010

Contemplating 2010 & Looking Ahead

It’s December 31st, so it must be time to recap the year that was. There is no Top 10 list, there is no best of this or best of that. I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you. They are subtle reminders that we need to keep life simple (and what’s more simple in life than skipping a rock), explore what’s out there and enjoy what life has to offer.

I hope you enjoy this, there will be food and recipes, but there will also be some pictures of some wonderful moments this year offered me and a little reflection throughout since I’ve been doing that a lot this year.

BLOGGING

From a blogging perspective, let’s just say I’m learning  each and every day. I used to take a picture without putting much thought into it, because I figured the story behind the post was the key, but in looking at other incredible blogs, I can see I was mistaken. All of the pieces are as important as one another. The parts really do make the whole in this case.

I’d like to highlight one specific moment of the blog as it will be one of my promises for 2011. Early in 2010, I responded to a simple little tweet from Joy The Baker (p.s. If you don’t know her, you should. Think the most awesome cookie ever and then it turns into human form and that’s her). She had asked if anyone out there had a new blog and if so, send over their URL to her. Without thinking much of it, I did and then boom! I woke up the next morning to see my stats climb and climb and climb because of this post of hers. Thankfully, my post at the time was this really fun 5 Minute Chocolate Cake using the microwave, which was a fun post for people to read, but could my pictures have been any worse!? I was refreshing the page every 30 minutes in shock as it climbed all the way to 1500 in that one magical day! Sadly, I haven’t seen that number again, but it sits there every day as a reminder of the power of the internet and one incredibly generous and talented baking blogger gal! By the way, you’ll be seeing her on the Food Network one day, I am as sure of that as the day is long.

And yes, my promise is that I will do the same as Joy and introduce great blogs throughout the year that could use another friend or two. And well, I can’t promise a spike of 1500 hits in a day, I do have big dreams for this blog, so you never know!

WORK

In a weird and ironic twist of fate, I began 2010 with a job that made me the envy of many, yet as of this writing, I don’t have a job. This once-in-a-lifetime job was with the Olympics, specifically a one year contract job in Vancouver being part of the Organizing Committee for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. That job, not surprisingly ended when the Paralympics ended in March and I have been without a job since, part my choice, part well, umm not my choice.

I’d like to say I was out every night on Robson Street partying in the balmy winter conditions, but unfortunately, I was not. I managed the staff and operations of the Men’s Ice Hockey Training Venue, which meant, I was there at 6am until 12am for about 21 straight days. Don’t worry, I’m not looking for pity or an “aww” moment. I ran on pure adrenaline and it was a wonderful experience, one that I’m glad I chose to do, even if that meant quitting a full-time job, leaving amazing friends behind and moving across Canada for the uncertainty of a job with a definitive end date.

I look back and think, had I not taken a leap, I would have missed out on meeting the amazing people that I had the opportunity to meet and work with and I never would have had the chance to…

Paint the red line of an Olympic hockey rink.

Or be the first person to skate on a brand new fresh sheet of ice. Not a single skate had ever touched the surface until I dug in and then posed for the customary photo.

Or umm, I don’t know, witness the Gold Medal Hockey game. While people went nuts after Sidney Crosby scored the Gold medal winning goal, I had only one shot at taking the “in the moment” picture. Possibly the best picture I’ve ever taken, note the puck in the net, yet the score still shows 2-2. The team is flooding the ice, while Crosby and his stick are in mid-air, he’s mid-air!

VACATION/TRAVEL

I love Seinfeld, I quote it ad nauseam since I always find it relevant. You may have heard the reference to “Summer of George”, well since the Olympics ended, it’s been the “Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter of Ethan” or let’s just call it the “Four Seasons of Ethan”. Through some good savings and foresight, I envisioned not working right away and thought I could indulge myself with some travelling.

I know not everyone has the chance to do what I did in a span of six months. I backpacked Europe, lounged in Hawaii and road-tripped west to east to check out places like Mount Rushmore, Custer’s Last Stand, Wrigley Field in Chicago, Miller Park in Milwaukee, all while eating like a champ. And for what it’s worth, it may not have the glamour of the south or the west, but the northern part of the United States is pretty impressive. Wyoming is absolutely right in calling themselves “Big Sky Country”.

It was only recently that I got “bit” with the travel bug and needless to say, I’m making up for lost time. But I wish you all the opportunity to explore a little bit more in 2011. There is magic in places we have never heard or been before and it’s incredible to witness it.

I had the opportunity to see a sunrise on the top of Haleakala in Maui. Standing at the summit of a 10,000 foot mountain, the sun peaks through the clouds to start its day of illumination. When you see the sun face-to-face like this, you have an altogether new appreciation for an occurrence that we take for granted on a daily basis. And yes, that’s the proof we’re above the clouds.

I spent three weeks in Europe and tackled Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. It would be unfair to try and pick one moment to share here, but one meal did stand out. I stopped in Lyon, France to eat at a “bouchon”, which is a type of restaurant that serves traditional Lyonaise cuisine. And although Lyon is known as the gastronomical capital of France, Lyonaise cuisine is more on the rustic side compared to the fancier, “haut cuisine” of Paris. Think French comfort food and you’ve got yourself a bouchon. Somehow, I managed to find a bouchon that I had read about in the New York Times and the “Poulet au vinaigre” (Chicken in Vinegar) called out to me, as you can see why. I love the checkered tablecloths, how much more French down-home-cooking can you get?

This meal was so memorable that I repeated it when I got back. Poulet en Vinaigre is Winter comfort food at its finest. It will have you saying “oooh-la-la”.

LIFE

Life is funny with its twists and turns. I write this not knowing where I might be living in a week or a month. I never thought of myself in this position, let alone enjoying the feeling of uncertainty. And while, there are definitely restless nights about how much money I have in my account and how much longer I can make it last, I’ve tried to comfort myself with the mantra of “Embrace the Unknown”.

And since this is my blog, a little self-promotion is acceptable from time to time.

Highly qualified professional with marketing and project/event management experience is currently available. Fluently bilingual in English and French and if you’ve read everything thus far, has no qualms about moving to pretty much anywhere.

AS THE CLOCK STRIKES MIDNIGHT

I’ve had a blast cooking, writing and sharing with you this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have and I want to thank you all for reading what I’ve had to say this year. I promise the pictures will continue to get better and I will challenge myself with more recipes that are more challenging, yet easily replicable wherever I happen to find myself in the world.

All the best in 2011 and as my Bubbie used to say, “I wish you wealth, health and happiness”

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Filed under 2010, 2011, 5 Minute Chocolate Cake, Chicken in vinegar, Mount Rushmore, Olympics, Poulet en vinaigre, Seinfeld, Sidney Crosbey

How a Tweet Turned Into a Spectacular Prime Rib Roast

What is Twitter? I know there are people far more “in the know” than me that could offer an explanation with a bunch of buzz words to explain Twitter and yet the answer may or may not be any more clear.

I myself, find it hard to define exactly what Twitter is since people use it for a variety of reasons. But I can tell you what I think Twitter is all about, how its evolved for me and yes, I promise there is roast at the end of the rainbow post.

Now is the time for honesty. I joined Twitter because I figured, “I have this blog, I think it’s pretty good, I’ll tweet about it, it will become a viral sensation and voila, I’ll be a household name!” To my newbie astonishment, it didn’t go viral and I’m barely a household name in my own house. And even though, I’d happily take all that, I’m better off for how things have transpired for what I’ve gained in the process.

You see, when you start on Twitter, you have nothing. You have no one following you and you aren’t following anyone. It’s up to you to grow it, it’s organic.  When I began, I knew of a couple of friends on Twitter but then I began doing searches of other food bloggers and I was amazed at the number of food bloggers out there. Each one seemingly more talented than the other, which is saying something because they’re all so amazing! So, I began following these people based solely on their blog and amazingly, in turn, most of them followed me back. Then the tweeting began and as talented as they were, they were even nicer to chat with. Not only do I shake my ahead in amazement with all their daily creations, but I’m happy and proud to call them my friends even though I’ve never met them in person.

I feel the friendship’s I’ve built are real and genuine because although the relationship may have originated with a food interest they have evolved to much more, be it encouraging someone when their day isn’t going well to just shooting the breeze at 140 characters at a time.

So, that’s my take on Twitter.

Now, by this point, you may be asking, how in the world does this have anything to do with a Prime Rib Roast? Well, I had a roast to prepare and decided to test my friends out in Twitter-land and simply tweeted if anyone had a great recipe. I was not let down because moments later, my friend Gail, better known as @THETOUGHCOOKIE on Twitter responded. As the name would suggest, Gail is a tough cookie, but in a crunchy, yet chewy sort of way AND she makes outrageously amazing cookies, as her website and appearances on The Today Show and Martha Stewart can attest to. Although, she’s all about the sweets, Gail has a savory side and was making her own prime rib. So she responded back to my tweet with a video of  Melissa Clark or @GoodAppetite. Melissa is a food writer extraordinaire for the New York Times amongst others and recent author of In The Kitchen With a Good Appetite.

Gail made her roast the day before and the pictures she was posting made me salivate in anticipation. I knew I was in for a treat and a great recipe and I was right, I got Melissa being her usual fun and charming self while putting together a very simply, yet delicious wet rub for her holiday prime rib roast.  And that my friends is how a tweet turned into an incredible roast.

In so far as the recipe, Melissa pretty much says and shows it all in the video. If you want a great garlic and herb paste for any type of meat, this is it. It’s tough to mess up who isn’t up for fail-safe recipe? For the record, I added anchovies to my paste and not only did the house smell phenomenal while it was cooking, it tasted great!

Come join the fun over on Twitter, if you start with Gail, Melissa and myself, you’ll definitely be well-fed.

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Filed under Melissa Clark, Prime Rib Roast, Twitter

Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts

Food blogger pop quiz time!

When do you know the “angle” for your post?

  1. As soon as I see the recipe, the post is already done in my head.
  2. As I’m cooking, I’m creating the story.
  3. As I’m sitting in front of the blank screen, it usually just hits me and I say a little prayer of thanks and start typing.
  4. I’m just happy to string a few words together that may or may not make sense.

I have good news for you, I think there is no one correct answer as we are inspired differently based on what we are making. A homemade family recipe immediately conjures up a story of learning to use a whisk with your mother and the post just writes itself, whereas you may come across a wonderful recipe for Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts but you have no connection to them other than wanting to try them and you’re left to your own imagination. So here is what I came up with, maybe a little #2 and #5 (I told you there was no right answer, so extra points if you went on a limb and said none apply to you!)

As the title suggests, I made Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts from Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table. As I waited for them, the smell emanating from the oven was not unlike an amusement park selling honey roasted nuts. Needless to say, any smell that is reminiscent of the amusement park is pretty exciting. But really, when is sugar, cinnamon and a few other spices tosses over baked nuts not exciting!?

As I pulled them out of the oven, the nuts had transformed from light-ish in color to a wonderfully glossy caramelized color. Since I had to let them cool down for a few seconds, I decided to admire the transformation that had occured in the oven. Virtually the same, but totally different. When you think about what happens in there, it’s pretty incredible.

Before - Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts

After - Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts

I made these now because honestly, what’s better than having something to put on the coffee table to snack on during the holidays? And let me tell you, it’s exactly what they claim to be. I went with cashews, almonds and peanuts that have a incredible salty, sweet and spicy hint to them with the perfect amount of crunch.

As is the case with recipes from Around My French Table, A little club has been formed French Fridays with Dorie and the goal is to encourage people to buy this incredible book rather than posting the recipes. It’s a great deal at Amazon (US) or Amazon (Canada) if you’re interested!

And lastly, let me wish you all Happy Holidays and enjoy your time spent with your family!

10 Comments

Filed under Around My French Table, Cocktail Nuts, Holidays

Mississippi Mud Cookies & The Cookie Man

The Cookie Man is a man with a great name and an even better job. The job of the Cookie Man is to supply cookies and make people smile. That sort of description sounds like the job of a Grandfather. Well, then it isn’t surprising to know the Cookie Man Jar I grew up with once belonged to my grandparents and this particular cookie jar was bought by them because of its similarity to my grandfather Eddie, right down to the fedora.

It’s (sort of) like looking in a mirror! And yes, that is me a few years ago.

Although Eddie passed away eleven years ago, he continues to make me smile with my memories, the pictures and by doing what every grandfather is supposed to do, offer their grandchild a cookie!

If you’re a fan of a soft, gooey marshmallow chocolate cookie with the slightest little pecan crunch, well, enjoy!

Mississippi Mud Cookies – Recipe from 1,001 Ways to Cook Southern

Makes about 3 dozen

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. miniature marshmallows
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Microwave semisweet chocolate morsels in a small microwave-safe glass bowl at HIGH 1 minute or until smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.
  2. Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla and melted chocolate.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to chocolate mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in chopped pecans and 1/2 cup milk chocolate morsels.
  4. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Press 3 marshmallows into each portion of dough.
  5. Bake at 350F for 10 to 12 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

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Filed under Cookie Man, Marshmallow, Mississippi Mud Cookies

Warming the Soul with Potato and Leek Soup & Kindness

I like real people. I like people who get it. Dorie Greenspan is a real person who gets it. Dorie is now at ten published cookbooks (and presumably more on the way), a winner of multiple James Beard’s awards and she appears regularly on television shows where she dazzles with her charm and cooking. She could have said to herself a while ago, “I’ve made it! I’m going to go through the motions now since there’s no need to give it my all”. But like I said, she’s real and she gets it, so she hasn’t. If anything, it looks like she is working even harder these days and I know this first hand.

I bought her latest cookbook called Around my French Table recently and tackled her Potato and Leek Soup. It tasted great and considering it had snowed about two feet that day, it was the perfect thing to warm up to. In fact, it was so perfect that I was inspired to do a photo shoot outside in the snow to prove how perfect the soup was. After picture-taking and playing in the snow, I tweeted this picture to a friend of mine Mardi (@eatlivtravwrite) on Twitter. I threw Dorie’s Twitter handle in the tweet too because, well, why not, it’s the fun of Twitter. I thought if she happen to see it, she might get a kick out of seeing her soup in an unusual location.  Well, the power of Twitter paid off. She did like it and the proof is below! Thank you again Dorie, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

So yes, that’s how I know she “gets it”. There are a ton of people out there on Twitter who don’t take the time to interact with their followers. Unfortunately, many people view it as just a one-way conversation where they just receive adulation and never give anything back and simply use their voice to push their own show, product, book, etc.

As the name suggests, Around My French Table is written from the heart. It was made with friends and family in mind. I was already ecstatic with my wonderful new cookbook, but that one small little tweet from Dorie made my day. Dorie AND her Potato and Leek soup have warmed my soul.

So here’s the fun part…the recipe for Potato and Leek Soup.

Actually, here’s the thing, I can’t post the recipe. There’s a club called French Fridays With Dorie and we encourage people to go out and buy their own copy of the book so they can enjoy the deliciousness on their own. I don’t want to sound like a salesperson, but considering how incredible this cookbook is, it’s a steal right now at Amazon (US) for $24 and Amazon (Canada) for $31.

But, if you ask nicely, maybe I’ll make this for you one day on a cold and snowy day!

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Filed under Dorie Greenspan, Leek, Potato, Soup, Winter

After-The-Dance Pralines

Ronco may have popularized the expression “Set it and forget it”, but the term had to be coined after someone made these After-The-Dance Pralines.

I was taken by this recipe because a) I wanted to make pralines b) I don’t (yet) own a candy thermometer c) This recipe did not involve a candy thermometer d) I’m very taken with everything Southern these days e) It had a cool little blurb which I will of course share with you.

This beloved Louisiana confection got its name from the tradition of young women in New Orleans making them before going to a ball and then enjoying them with friends (and beaux) at their homes afterwards.

Get ready for this. The recipe calls for a grand total of three ingredients involving pretty much zero effort and then going to sleep while they bake. I can totally do that and in fact I did!

I woke up this morning and for breakfast, yes breakfast I enjoyed a very light and airy pecan-filled praline full of caramel goodness. Whether you pronounce it “Pray-leen” or “Prah-leen”, we can all agree these are ridiculously simple and delicious.

Enjoy y’all!

After-The-Dance Pralines (Southern Living – 1,001 Ways to Cook Southern)

Makes 20 pralines

  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, lightly toasted
  1. Preheat over to 400F.
  2. Stir together brown sugar and beaten egg white, and fold in chopped pecans.
  3. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls onto a heavy-duty aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.
  4. Turn off oven; place baking sheet in oven, and let pralines stand 8 hours in oven.

My attempt at imagining what the pralines would have looked like had there been a food blogger in the nineteenth century.

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Filed under Pecans, Pralines, Southern

Pecan Pie Squares

I was so impressed by my recent visit to Alabama that I went online to Amazon as soon as I got home and ordered 1001 Ways To Cook Southern by Southern Living.

There was a bunch of selections to choose from, but I was taken with this book because it was more than just recipes. It also promised stories which are always important, but are an especially unique element of Southern cuisine with so many recipes handed down from generation to generation. I wasn’t sure what to start with until I found a recipe for pecan pie squares. When I saw I could re-create a staple of Southern cuisine like pecan pie in a potentially less guilty square form, well, that’s all I needed to see.

Maybe because I don’t own a ton of cookbooks, but I felt a fun sort of excitement using this cookbook for the first time. It was like the giddiness of opening up a present, but the excitement was multiplied because I knew there were tons of more presents waiting in the book!

Unfortunately, my pastry blender is in a box somewhere, so I had to make do with a fork, but other than that, this was a very simple recipe that turned out really nicely. The pecan topping is sweet, but not outrageously sugary like I’ve had in other pecan pies. Don’t get me wrong, I do like crazy, über sweet, but this one was good in that it didn’t make it feel like you were one more bite away from a cavity! The crunch of the pecan is definitely there and it’s a perfect compliment to the soft and buttery crust that by the way I am totally impressed with myself for making!

Pecan Pie Squares – Makes approximately 30 squares

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 3 Tbsp. whipping cream
  • 3 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Sift together flour and powdered sugar. Cut in 3/4 cup softened butter using a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse meal. Pat mixture on bottom and 1 1/2 inches up sides of a lightly greased 13×9 inch baking dish.
  2. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool. Bring brown sugar, honey, 2/3 cup butter and whipping cream to a boil in a saucepan over medium-hight heat. Stir in pecans and pour hot filling into prepared crust.
  3. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Cool in pan on a wire rack before cutting into 2-inch squares.

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Filed under Alabama, Pecan Pie Squares